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(Canada) MORE on the nightmare cuts to autism services; 23,000 kids on waiting list

Feb 26, 2019, Hamilton (Ontario) Spectator: Ford government says it did not order autism wait-list ‘freeze’—Despite documents that surfaced saying new families could not access autism services, ministry said “at no point” was freeze ordered. The Ford government says it did not freeze a wait list for children's autism services, although a statement Monday from the social services ministry stated only those who'd received prior help were eligible for more. And, facing more pressure over their controversial overhaul of the autism program, questions were raised about PC claims of spending more than the previous Liberal government — given the Liberals had budgeted $321 million for 2018-19, the same amount pledged under the reforms…. Memos, however, have surfaced that indicate the ministry and autism service providers closed the wait lists, leaving behavioural therapists to run parent workshops and perform other duties instead of treating children. The PC plan, which starts April 1, aims to clear the 23,000-child wait list by spreading resources among all families — but it means some now receiving higher levels of service will see cutbacks. The changes mean families will be eligible for up to $20,000 a year for each child under 6, to a lifetime maximum of $140,000, to be used for the services of their choice. Children older than that can access up to $5,000 a year up to age 18, to a lifetime maximum of $55,000. During Monday's question period, Premier Doug Ford said when MacLeod took over the ministry she "ran right over to the treasury and asked for $100 million extra to make sure that the 23,000 families that were on the wait list under the previous (Liberal) administration" would get some services. "We will make sure we take care of the 23,000 families," the premier also said. "They will be off the wait list in 18 months." MacLeod has repeatedly said in the house that the government is spending $321 million, "much more than the $256 million the previous Liberal administration had offered," something the premier has also said. But Liberal Leader John Fraser said, when in government his party spent $317 million in 2017-18 and had allotted $321 million for the 2018-19 budget. When asked about the autism spending, a spokesperson for MacLeod said the minister "has said repeatedly (that) the previous Liberal government's 2018/19 budget was a political budget that they had no intention of fulfilling. The Ontario Autism Program is a clear example of their financial mismanagement." … Moffatt estimates the program would have to serve 40,000 kids — and impose very gentle income-testing — to spend $321 million a year, as the government has said. Even then, almost half of the children would have to be under age 6 and therefore eligible for $20,000 a year, he added. …


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